You've got to be a pretty big Star Wars fanatic to get any real joy out of Fanboys, a geek-fueled road-trip comedy whose saving grace may be its built-in audience (and even then, only if you're still in the same kind of forgiving mood you were in when Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace stunk up the big screen back in 1999). Fanboys is a film that, despite having its heart in the right place and successfully showcasing the way that obscure science fiction film facts bond die-hard movie nerds, still falls flat by being too slavish to the formula.
Eric (Sam Huntington) is a lifelong Star Wars fan and aspiring comic-book artist who has cut his ties with video-game-playing, sci-fi-debating pals Hutch (Dan Fogler), Windows (Jay Baruchel), and Linus (Christopher Marquette) in order to hawk Buicks at his father's used car lot. It's been three years since Eric's even spoken with the old crew, and after a chance meeting at a party it's pretty obvious that his former best friend, Linus, still harbors feelings of resentment toward his childhood chum. But Hutch and Windows know something about Linus that Eric doesn't, and despite being sworn to secrecy, they're about to spill the beans: Linus is dying, and he probably won't live to see the new Star Wars movie. Ever since they were kids, Eric, Hutch, Windows, and Linus always joked about breaking into Skywalker Ranch and becoming the first people to see the first chapter of the legendary Star Wars saga. Now that the film is actually being made, Linus' time is running out. Realizing that their shared childhood dream is now their only hope of helping Linus actually see Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace before his number is up, the gang piles into Hutch's van and starts driving west, where they encounter Trekkers (don't call them "Trekkies"!), peyote-loving mechanics, and Las Vegas escorts, and even get thrown in the slammer on their journey to the most celebrated movie compound on the planet. But even if they do manage to reach their destination, who's to say that they'll be stealthy enough to avoid detection by Skywalker Ranch's crack security crew?
Fanboys writers Ernest Cline and Adam Goldberg obviously know what it means to be a true fanatic, as evidenced not just in the wealth of obscure Star Wars facts that punctuate the dialogue of the film, but also by the heated debates that often follow. For the former misfit adolescents once slammed into lockers by bullying jocks who ironically never noticed that they're just as geeky, just in a more socially acceptable direction, there's a certain satisfaction that comes with seeing this group of unrepentant sci-fi junkies pull out all the stops to give their best pal the ultimate send-off. Beyond that, Fanboys has little going for it besides some amusing cameos and the guilty pleasure of watching a full-scale rumble between trash-talking "Trekkers" and the Children of Lucas. But strip away the Star Wars angle, and all that's left here is a typical road movie, and not a terribly entertaining one at that. Had the filmmakers attempted to actually get creative with the storyline or perhaps offer some genuine insight into the fanboy phenomenon, then they might have had something truly special on their hands. What we get instead is a kind of cinematic novelty, a well-meaning yet half-baked comedy that sputters along on the fumes of a franchise now known more for nostalgia than quality, and saves the only interesting question for the final few seconds of the film.